Edo de Waart and Jorja Fleezanis, former stars of the Minnesota Orchestra, were in Minneapolis for a concert Saturday night at the University of Minnesota's Ted Mann Concert Hall. The concert, produced independently by orchestra musicians locked out since October in a contract dispute with management, will be repeated Sunday afternoon.
"My heart is still with this orchestra," De Waart said in an interview. He was music director from 1986 to 1995. "I was here for nine years, so it was not brain surgery to show my support for the musicians."
Fleezanis, concertmaster in Minneapolis from 1989 to 2009, took a larger look at the realities facing musicians and orchestras.
"This is not just a situation in Minnesota," she said of the financial and labor issues facing the orchestra. "It is national and global. I feel like we're on the brink of something big, and the question is for the community: How do they assess the worth of this orchestra and what it means to the city?"
Fleezanis, who teaches at Indiana University, said the state of orchestras is on the mind of every student with whom she works. She also said musicians need to do a better job in explaining to the public "the meat and potatoes of what we do."
Fleezanis and De Waart said they fear that trust and cooperation are missing in Minnesota, where the board has proposed cutting minimum salaries by 32 percent. Management, which recently reported a fiscal 2012 budget deficit of $6 million, has said reducing labor costs is essential to the orchestra's future.
"I have always felt uncomfortable with the adversarial method used to carve out our contracts," Fleezanis said. "There is a lot of blood and sweat that goes into that process, and I believe that blood and sweat could be put into more productive things."
De Waart said the proposal offered to the Minnesota musicians cuts too deeply. "I'm not saying givebacks of any sort would destroy the orchestra, but it's such a one-way street," he said, adding that he is "not against anybody, but I'm for the orchestra."
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299